When a CNN and Essence magazine recently conducted a poll to find out whether diversity has been fully implemented in the American workforce, they found that whites said racial discrimination is no longer a serious factor, but that blacks disagreed.
Affirmative action has been successful in bringing substantial numbers of black professionals into corporate America since 1970. However, statistics aren’t so encouraging when looking at the movement of blacks up the corporate ladder. African-Americans comprise 10.1% of the nation’s 112.4-million employed civilians; 6.2% of its nearly 28 million managers and professionals and 8.5% of its 3.3. million technical and related support staff.
While diversity and inclusion are considered an important aspect of America’s workforce, many blacks believe that white corporate America still has not fully embraced diversity. Dean Jones, CEO of the Southland Corporation in Compton, Calif., a nonprofit company that provides employment development and supplier engagement programs for major corporations, maintains that diversity in many areas of big and small business remains an elusive animal. “Corporate managers seem to be too selective in who will fill certain positions,” Dean observed. “A lot of companies will say that we need to identify a certain color or gender for a position. And that means that they are not working from a base of inclusion but more so from a base of selective diversity.”
And Jones noted that despite an available pool of black and white applicants across the nation, many corporations are focusing their diversity efforts on hiring immigrant populations who will accept lower working wages. “Employers are already filling jobs with immigrants from India, China, the Philippines and possibly some South American countries. That’s not even counting the immigrants who are already living in the United States. I don’t think they are going to be pursuing diversity candidates on the corner of 76th Street and Vermont Avenues.”
According to Dean, employers are also increasingly seeking employees who are adept at more than one language- a growing trend that he said could portend trouble for African Americans who speak only English.
“The new discrimination is language,” Dean maintained. “We get job applications where everything about the job sounds very doable until you read the bottom of the job description and it states; ‘Spanish and English preferred’ or ‘Korean and English preferred.’ That tells me that if you are seeking an applicant who speaks Spanish and English, you want a Hispanic person. Or if you’re asking for someone who speaks Korean and English, you probably want a Korean.”
Jones also observed that the other wrinkle in diversity hiring is that in some instances, a corporation will bypass qualified African American males to hire an African American female. “It’s cost effective to hire a black female over black male,” he pointed out. Sixty percent of the workforce is female and as a consequence, it’s cheaper to hire women because they have yet to get equal pay for equal work . Corporations are able to make more profits because they are paying lower wages. The interviewer thinks, ‘I can offer the black female a lower salary than I can a black male and I’ll save the company money.’”
With the workforce becoming more multicultural and the competition for jobs increasing, Jones observed that blacks will have to “step up their game” to remain competitive in the workforce. “They are going to have to enhance their professionalism and that means everything from the way they dress, to their speech to their market insight. The corporation works from two pendulums: How can I increase my sales and how can I lower my costs? So you have to come in with the mindset of ‘The better I understand the company’s product, the easier it will be for me to be indispensable.’ If you can approach the company doing the hiring and show them how you can enhance their revenue base, then you have a shot at being a part of their corporation.”
Pausing, Dean said that blacks should not hesitate ‘think outside the box’ to keep that steady paycheck coming in. “Sometimes you have to say, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’ Learn another language,” advised Dean, who left corporate America eight years ago to start Southland Corporation. “My other suggestion is to learn how to start and operate a business. That means that you’re going to be the best employee you’ve ever been. You’re going to be punctual and responsible. You don’t need a college degree to start your own company-running a business is all about moving products and lowering costs.”
Despite the implementation of diversity which is geared toward giving talented employees an equal share of jobs in the worplace, some feel that minorities and immigrants are receiving an “unfair advantage” in the workforce. “I stopped at a tavern to talk about some football,” said one black business owner who wanted to remain anonymous. “A white male engineer asked me about my executive recruiting business. He said that blacks in corporate America have an advantage over whites, especially black women. He explained how during recent years, when he was employed by one of Chicago area’s top employers, he saw blacks not nearly as talented as him get further along. We discussed this topic but I told him I have never felt my blackness was a competitive advantage over white men. I told this worldly and intelligent white male I could line up blacks that would feel differently. Diversity programs and programs like affirmative action are meant to overcome discrimination and provide an opportunity for more blacks in business. Yet, some high achieving whites feel it represents reverse discrimination.”
Chris Strudwick-Turner, vice president of marketing and communications for the Los Angeles Urban League, maintained that the push toward diversity will continue to remain high on the list of corporations. “From what I can see, diversity is only getting better. The opportunities for jobs are opening up and the corporations are looking for a more diverse workforce. Many companies understand the value of diversity and that their workforce needs to reflect the community that it works in. If your workforce does not reflect the community there’s no relationship with that community. If you can’t speak the language of the community, if you don’t have people on your staff who reflect the community, it is very hard to do business there.”
One corporation that continues its commitment to diversity is Toyota Motor Sales. “Toyota’s commitment to diversity and inclusion has been among our top business priorities since we started operations in the U. S. over 50 years ago,” said Zoe Zeigler, media relations representative in the corporate communications division at Toyota. “With continuous improvement and respect for people as our key business principles, we strive to create an environment where a variety of cultures and backgrounds are respected and valued.
“This commitment to diversity and inclusion translates into meaningful jobs and career advancement opportunities, new and long term business partnerships with ethnic minority suppliers and dealers, committed investment in the communities in which we do business and mirroring our diverse customer base in marketing and advertising initiatives,” Zeigler said.
Zeigler said that for the past eight years, Toyota has formalized its diversity objectives with its Toyota 21st Century Diversity Strategy, which focuses on areas of business that include employment, procurement, dealer training and development.
“Since our consumer base is so diverse, having a diverse workplace and incorporating diversity into our guiding principles helps us to mirror what our customers want and need in both product and service experience as well as advertising and managing,” she pointed out.
And Zeigler said Toyota is proud of its record of diversity, especially among African American-owned dealerships. “I’m happy to tell you that we currently have more than 120 dealers that are minority owned or operated and we plan to increase this number in the future,” she said.
Wal Mart, with 1.4 million employees nationwide, employs more than 250,000 African American associates and is one of the leading employers in the United States for African Americans. “Diversity is a top priority for Wal Mart,” said Phillip Keene, Wal Mark spokesperson. “Our commitment to diversity is not just something we talk about, it’s who we are.”
Keene pointed to the fact that Wal Mart actively recruits from historically black colleges. “We participate in the Thurgood Marshall College fund Strive for Excellence Program, where we provide scholarships and professional development opportunities for scholarship recipients. We are also strong partners with the United Negro College Fund,” Keene pointed out.
Keene said that diversity will continue to play a key factor in recruitment of minorities for the organization. “We believe we can do a better job serving more than 140 million weekly customers by cultivating respect for diverse lives and backgrounds through our company inititives,” said Keene. “We offer several different types of development opportunites that are open to all our associates and that will allow them to position themselves for leadership in the organization.”
In the entertainment industry, diversity remains a thorny subject among blacks working behind the scenes. Despite the fact that black faces can be spotted on the big and small screen, the picture of inclusion is very different when strolling the boardrooms and sound stages of Hollywood, where employed African Americans are usually few and far between. Many blacks in tinseltown feel that the issue of diversity is still not taken seriously and has a long way to go before it makes an impact across the board.
Marcy DeVeaux, president of DVG, a full service public relations agency, has consulted with clients on the issue of diversity in the entertainment industry for years.
“I don’t see that diversity is part of a strategic plan or part of a business strategy for many studios or networks,” DeVeaux frankly disclosed. “It’s like diversity is thought of as an add on-like the entertainment industry thinks, ‘Gee, we really should be thinking about this-maybe we’ll think about it next year.’ There seems to be a lack of consciousness for many in Hollywood over the issue. The issue of diversity in entertainment seems to ebb and flow and is based on who’s cracking the whip at the time,” DeVeaux observed.
“I think that for the most part, network executives want to embrace their audiences of color but in these tough economic times, their focus is elsewhere. It’s ironic that since black and brown audiences compose a sizable segment of the film and television viewing audience-and that we might possibly elect the country’s first African American president-networks are still maintaining that they cannot find talented writers or performers of color for their television programs.”
DeVeaux affirmed that only a handful of blacks are employed at any one time in Hollywood, making diversity an arbitrary subject. “The fact is that most of television programming lacks cultural diversity, and this coming fall season is typical–it is a whitewash again. So one has to ask the question, ‘Is it good business to ignore a huge segment of your (black and brown) viewing audience?’”
DeVeaux acknowledges that networks such as UPN, FOX and the CW have employed black writers and producers black actors in the past, but that only one network was currently making a concerted effort to implement diversity in its hiring practices. “If I had to point to any television network that is making a real effort, that would be NBC,” DeVeaux observed. “It hasn’t shown up on the screen, but behind the scenes, NBC is placing professionals of color in key decision making positions. NBC is the only network that has an executive vice president of diversity, and an African American man is now the Washington bureau chief who stepped into the shoes left by the late Tim Russert. And there is a buzz going around that an African American woman-Gwen Ifill-may host ‘Meet the Press.”‘
Pausing, DeVeaux observed, “Diversity has just not trickled down to the entertainment side. It has not become part of a business model and eventually it will catch up with the network. The statement that you often hear from industry executives when the subject of minority hiring is brought up is, ‘We need to do better.’”
Screenwriter Sharon Johnson agrees that diversity in Hollywood remains elusive. Formerly a staff writer on “The Sinbad Show,” “Buddies” starring comedian Dave Chappelle and “Goode Behavior” starring Sherman Hemsley, Johnson has labored in Hollywood for over 15 years, but discloses that opportunities for black writers are sorely lacking when compared to her white counterparts. “I remember referring white writers to my agent and then seeing them getting hired for top 10 shows on major networks and eventually becoming producers. I’ve asked my agent, ‘Why don’t you put me on one of those shows?”
Theorizing on why agents are reluctant to pitch writers of color for projects, Johnson observed, “In my opinion, agents live and die by the number of clients they get jobs for, and it is easier to put a white writer on a white show than to fight to put a writer of color on a white show. It’s the path of least resistance.”
Johnson felt that agents needed to be more proactive and less scared of going to bat for writers of color. “They need to stop pigeonholing and stereotyping writers of color,” she observed.
Pausing, Johnson observed, “Networks and studios say they can’t find qualified writers of color. We know that there are quality writers of color here in Hollywood-and everybody deserves an opportunity. The bottom line is, Hollywood really needs to take chances on writers of color and they need to do more leg work in finding where the writers of color are. As for diversity existing in Hollywood, in my opinion, it is still a work in progress.”
As businesses continue to tighten their bottom line and seek qualified candidates to fill their ranks, one African American blogger on a black business site commented, “This country is facing a shortage of skilled workers, and soon talent, not color, will be the hiring factor. We (blacks) must prepare ourselves for the future opportunities by being well educated and committed to being and doing the best at what we can do.”
Jim Walton also blogged, “As black people, we must strive to be what our parents told us, twice as good. Performance can provide opportunities, and race provides an additional barrier that can be overcome. Hard work is not a stranger in black communities. Our forefathers worked hard for free and dreamed of a better life for us. We need a sense of community support to encourage each other to go for the brass ring.”
Computers, personal care and green collar employment among future areas of demand
By Cynthia E. Griffin
OW Staff Writer
Looking down the road to forecast what may or may not happen is a tricky science at best, but it is a necessary exercise if society is to be proactive rather than react to everything.
And nowhere is looking at and evaluating future trends more important than in the realm of employment. What are the growth industries of the future? Where will the jobs be? What training is needed? What will the salaries be?
Knowing this information is important for all of American society, but it is especially critical for African Americans who have historically and consistently as a group fallen behind on many economic measures. Consider the following:
* In July, 9.7 percent of African Americans were unemployed compared to 5.7 percent of the overall population.
* According to “We the People: Blacks in the United States,” the most recent census overview, while African American women and men 16 and older participated in the workforce at almost the same rate (60 vs. 58 percent), black men’s participation is about 10 percent lower than that of all men in the nation.
* Blacks who worked full time earned about $85 for every $100 earned by all workers.
* The African American teen unemployment rate is nearly six times the national average for all workers and almost twice that of teens in general.
Given these facts, it is easy to see why knowing what jobs will be the fastest growing in the future is a must for the African American community. This knowledge will help educators direct their students’ career choices; it will tell parents the career options available; and it will inform young people themselves about what to study and why sometimes “boring” subjects like math, science, reading and English are so critical.
So what are the growth industries of the future?
According to the United States Department Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 30 broad job classifications that are projected to grow at least 10 percent between 2006 and 2016. Most of the professions involve working with people, and 20 of them can be learned with on-the-job training that ranges from short to long-term.
The salaries paid to those who work in these professions range from $76,000 annually for a management analyst down to $9.84 per hour that home care aides currently average in California.
The top three projected fastest growing occupations nationwide are network systems and data communications analysts, a category which is expected to grow by 53.4 percent in the next decade; personal and home care aides which should grow by 50.6 percent between now and 2016; and home health aides, which will jump 48.7 percent.
So-called “green collar jobs” cut across all job category sectors, and according to a report by the American Solar Energy Society, the industry could employ more than 40 million U.S. workers or about one-quarter of working Americans by the year 2030.
In California, according to the Employment Development Department (EDD) Labor Market Information Division, the need for registered nurses will outpace the need for workers in all other occupations. The state is expected to have 40,980 job openings for R.N.s until 2014, and these individuals can step into the position with a minimum two years of post high school education.
Executive secretaries with 24,460 projected job openings and secondary school teachers with 21,470 openings comprise the top employment needs down the road in California.
This information was included in a new campaign EDD launched this week called Today’s Jobs and Tomorrow’s Opportunities in the Los Angeles Region. The projections are divided into those that require a bachelor’s degree or higher like teachers, those requiring two years of education like nurses and those requiring up to one year of training or work experience such as executive secretaries.
Nationwide the top three occupations with the highest projected growth do not necessarily require college degrees. According to one official with New Horizons Computer Learning Centers for example, an individual could get into a springboard position that will open the door to the network systems and data communications analyst profession with as little as two months of training at this private college.
While the network systems job category can encompass so many different things, it basically is working with a company’s information technology network as well as their data communications. This involves communication of information between users in the company and individuals outside the firm.
The New Horizons official said the title can generally encompass webmasters, network administrators and network analyst just to mention a few positions.
Those who obtain a minimum of two months of education in this field coupled with basic certification can obtain positions such as help-desk technicians, which can pay a starting salary of $30,000. With six months of education and certifications, an individual could start in the ball park of $40,000 to $45,000 a year. On the high-end of the scale, experienced individuals could earn up to $262,000, according to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.
The second and third fastest growing occupations–personal and home cares aides and home health aides–are closely related occupations. They are also on the lower end of the salary scale and workers currently face a number of challenges that make the industry one with considerable turnover.
“Jobs are growing in home care because its the most humane way to take care of frail seniors, and the population of frail seniors is going to boom between now and 2025,” said Jim Phillious, long-term care director for the Service Employees International (SEIU) Healthcare.
“The jobs are growing, but based on the growth of the senior population there will be a huge shortage of home care workers, and we are trying to get the state and local governments to invest in the programs,” said the SEIU director.
In California, Phillious said home care worker earn $9.84 per hour and have access to a health plan. About 40 percent of the workers belong to a union.
But their salaries are funded by a complex mixture of county, state and federal financing, and raises and healthcare are determined by agreements the union negotiates with the state, and these decisions are always impacted by budget ups and downs.
Phillious estimates that the salaries of about 300,000 (or nearly 90 percent of the home care workers in the state) are paid for by this funding trio. The workers enroll with a registry, and those individuals needing the service who are Medicaid eligible are provided a list of workers to select from.
Outside California, some states contract with a homecare agency, which employs the home care workers.
Among the challenges of working in this profession are long hours, some of which are unpaid.
“Many home care workers, because they have a good personal relationship with their (clients) provide additional hours beyond those paid by the state,” Phillious said.
Homecare workers also must pay their own transportation, and those who drive are only reimbursed 29 cents per mile no matter how high gas prices climb. All of these issues can sometimes lead to high industry turnover.
Phillious said this is part of the reason the union is planning to support federal legislation that will increase the flexibility with which states can set up their home care programs.
Beyond the identified top three sources of future jobs, in California, the renewable energy sector is definitely another employment growth area, said Peter Beadle, a 12-year veteran of the solar industry and founder of the Web site www.greenjobs.com.
Renewable energy consists of solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal and hydropower and solar is definitely the hot spot, pointed out Beadle, whose web sites connects green companies with people interest in working in the industry.
“When you start a new solar company, you need everything. You start out with senior management, and a lot of the management personnel come from other industries. There aren’t enough solar employees to supply all the companies out there. A lot of people from the semi-conductor profession are moving into solar because (the two industries) run similar technologies.”
Beadle said solar can actually be divided into two segments–one involving the manufacture of the equipment, and the other handles installation of the solar panels. Most companies do one or the other.
“In manufacture organizations, the technical operators and technicians are at the bottom of the employment ladder and are often trained on the job by the company,” Beadle explained.
The installation side is more of a marketing and installation consumer service business, Beadle said. Installers are at the bottom of this job food chain, and these individuals put the equipment together on the roof and connect the system. He said they are often under the supervision of an engineer.
Beadle said installers are typically people with a variety of backgrounds, who may have gone through a vocational training program specific to solar.
Lyndon Rive, who is co-founder with his brother Pete Rive of SolarCity Corp., a company that installs residential and small commercial panels, recently installed 200 panels on a Crenshaw Boulevard senior citizen home called Morgan Place. He said the industry is growing at 40 percent per year.
“We went from two employees to 310 in the last two years, and a big portion of that growth is in Southern California,” said Rive, who added that he has decided to create an in-house training academy to help keep up with the explosive employee demand.
SolarCity looks for individuals with electrical, roofing and construction experience as well as those who understand AutoCad and electrical design.
“We’re looking for people who want to get into the field, and really understand the importance of a strong work ethic, and have a strong commitment to the environment. They must be good with their hands and willing to work in difficult conditions such as climbing on roofs, which sometimes requires somebody with athletic abilities,” explained Rive, who noted one other upside to the solar installation work.
“The great thing about this business is that there is no way around the need for people; you can’t outsource the work to India or China. You’ve got to have people to install solar systems on roofs.”
Salaries in the renewable energy sector, particularly solar are all over the board.
“A year ago, if you asked me what an installer made, I would have said $30,000 to $60,000 a year; and they get paid hourly. But I don’t think that’s true anymore,” said Beadle of Greenjobs.com.
The uncertainty is caused by the rapid growth of the industry, which is driving a worker shortage and pushing up demand, and consequently pay.
According to a recent report on Beadle’s web site, salaries for executives in the solar energy space have jumped up to the $200,000 to $400,000 range, and the average CEO cash compensation package increased 9.2 percent from 2007 to 2008.
The report added that other renewable energy sectors such as wind and biofuels are expected to see the same upward salary surge, and Beadle believes that will trickle down to the worker.
Overall, the jobs of the future will require that employees have education, not necessarily college, but definitely beyond high school to quality for many of the better paying opportunities.
The will also be a need to maintain high levels of flexibility because as new industries come on line and expand, in the early period of growth, transferring will be a key way these fledgling business sectors are staffed. Consequently, the individuals who have obtained the basic training will be in the best position to cross over.